An alumna of both Massachusetts College of Art and Design and Yale School of Art, New York-based Freyer has honed an individual approach over recent years winning notable awards and exhibiting internationally. Working with both still and moving image, Freyer explores the notion of experience as touch and emotional and physical endurance performed through female bodies. Fittingly, she is represented by ACN, an all-female agency, and will soon exhibit an excerpt of ‘42 Wayne’ – an intimate series featuring Freyer’s mother and sisters – at the Giardini di Porta Venezia in Milan and the Benaki Museum for the Athens Photo Festival in Greece. For our October issue, Freyer visited the Brooklyn studio of sculptor Genesis Belanger, capturing the artist, her surreal work and the subdued mood of her studio ahead of the artist’s major show at the Aldrich.

Wallpaper*: Describe your style and process

Jillian Freyer: I think of my photographs as evidence of collaborations between myself and my subjects — a celebration of the quotidian. I take great pleasure in working slowly, working with the same women repeatedly, and noticing subtle details that fly under the radar. When photographing, I usually start with a jumping-off point, a gesture or action, to give our shoot structure and allow my initial idea to evolve organically through the subject’s interpretation. I’m drawn to the moments in-between the ‘staged’ when the subjects are comfortable and at ease. When I’m photographing, I keep this motto in my mind, ‘Do you want to take, or make a photograph?’ So I try to create an experience that can only occur by way of myself and the women I work with; one that portrays a kind of intimacy, celebrating the flaws and vulnerabilities we share during these sessions.

Artist Genesis Belanger in her Greenpoint, Brooklyn studio, shot by Freyer in March this year for the October 2020 issue of Wallpaper*

W*: Tell us about how you brought your way of working to this particular shoot

JF: I felt drawn to Genesis and her work — I believe that I do my best work when there is an unspoken trust or connection between myself and the subject. Genesis’ studio had streaming light, her pastel sculptures trickling through her studio. I felt inspired by her work and the energy she brought. There is great enjoyment to be had in connecting with others, making them feel at ease, giving them confidence, and allowing them to feel secure. I felt a similar connection with Genesis as I do with the women I photograph in my work.

W*: What do you think is the most interesting thing happening within photography now?

JF: I feel excited to be seeing more diversity in who is being hired and published. We learn so much through visual culture; I love seeing stories through fresh eyes and new perspectives.

Germaine, Julie, Lily, Richard, and Persephone, 2019

W*: What’s on your radar? 

JF: I’m trying to disconnect from social media and reconnect with myself and my work lately. It’s so easy to get sucked in, scrolling through visual content without giving much thought. I’ve been collecting more photo books recently, rewatching films that inspire my work. Three Women is a favourite and Badlands, and The Piano by Jane Campion (all of her films are gems!). I’ve recently discovered Alice Rohrwacher’s films (Corpo Celeste and The Wonders), which I fell in love with immediately. There is a rawness to them that feels new and thrilling. I also may be living vicariously through these films, waiting until the day we can travel again!

W*: What’s next for you this year?

JF: Well, before it gets too cold over here, I am making as many photos as I can! I feel a lot less inspired to create photos when the trees are barren and the sky is grey. It’s also hard to convince people to stand out in the cold with me! Since I’ve been home so much due to our current situation, I am also working on putting together a book mock-up, with hopes of publishing my first book. I hope to continue to have opportunities to travel and create beautiful photographs for different publications as well. §

Drag, 2018